Happiness Is a Truck-Only Lane in Your Side-View Mirror
The Warrensburg Daily Star-Journal weighed in with its position on truck-only lanes for Missouri. Its editorial view is really that truck-only lanes are worth considering and could be good for Missouri, but the paper didn’t stake out a strong view either way. The editorial is mildly disappointing, because although it mentions how the Kansas City Star has called for the use of toll roads (as have I), it then says that toll roads “aren’t perfect,” but never tells us what it views as the problems or weaknesses of toll roads. But the good news is that the paper is at least writing in positive terms about truck-only lanes, provided a fair financing system can be found.
Of course, a great financing system could pretty obviously be enacted simply by making the trucks that use the roads pay the tolls to finance the roads. For that matter, the entire highway should be tolled so that we all pay for whichever system we choose to use. I have no problem with gas taxes, and raising the gas tax to pay for highways is far preferable to raising the general sales tax. But using the gas tax as a financing system for truck-only lanes would make the people who drive only on local roads pay just as much for the highway as truckers and long-distance commuters would.
I won’t go into the extreme detail of how we fund transportation in Missouri, but we pay for our roads in many different ways. The people who primarily use local roads pay for them through gas, sales, and property taxes. Tolling the highway would be the fairest and most efficient way to make sure that the people who use the highway — especially people and truckers from out of state — pay for their use of the asset. Passenger cars and, I presume, trucks with enormous gas tanks can quite easily make it across Missouri without filling up and thereby paying gax taxes within Missouri. Currently, many people and trucks driving across the state intentionally stop and fill up while in Missouri because of the low gas taxes here. However, if we pay for a new I-70 and a new I-44 with increased gas taxes (which, again, isn’t the worst idea), we can expect some of the current fill-ups to be redirected across state lines.
Tolling the highway, and eliminating gas taxes for the drivers who pay the tolls, is the best way to fund the changes. Fears of diverting trucks to lesser highways are overblown, especially if trucks are allowed to double-rig in the truck-only lanes, and the toll itself isn’t set too high. The goal is to bring in enough funding to build and maintain the road, not earn a profit.
Thanks to Combest for the link.